First of all, big ups to Kyle Ryan (or Ryan Kyle, as he loves to be called) for filling in for me last week while I attended to matters outside the Conchords universe. Of course I was out for what was probably the best episode of the season so far, but the promise of Kristen Wiig guest-starring this week was enough to temper that disappointment.
I almost felt like I should excuse myself from reviewing "Love Is A Weapon Of Choice,” because I doubt there ever was or ever will be a FOTC episode more specifically tailored to my personal tastes. Namely, it catered to both my adoration of Kristin Wiig AND my own personal struggle with canine epilepsy (which my recently deceased Ginger actually suffered from). AND it used my number-one baby name should I ever spawn: Brahbrah.
And yet… something about this episode just didn’t click like it should have. It seemed like it should have been a home run. Jemaine and Bret competing for a girl is one of my favorite FOTC themes, because of the potential to disolve into a hilariously pathetic game of one-upmanship. Not one but two over-the-top musical numbers, ripped from the R. Kelly and Meatloaf songbooks, leant themselves to all sorts of silly theatrics. And Wiig’s talent for subdued (well, sometimes) absurdity fits in well with the guys’ humor. And yet all of these things only worked in fits and spurts.
Bret and Jemaine first encounter Wiig in the park as she’s frantically searching for her missing epileptic dog, Charlie, who ran off after they “had a disagreement.” They’re both immediately smitten with her lazy eye, and launch into an R&B slow jam, "I'm In Love With A Sexy Lady." This song’s conversational narrative shtick kind of grated at first, but eventually wore me down, and actually scored the first laugh-out-loud moment of the night. (“Was this about 20 seconds ago? / No about 23 seconds ago.”) It’s not a classic by any means, but it definitely had a few choice quotable lines.
The guys’ attempts to win Wiig begin with trying to reunite her with her dog—or any dog, selected from a pack of mysteriously obtained mutts—and gradually progress to conceiving a charity song/benefit for canine epilepsy and badmouthing each other during their respective shifts on their two-part date. Again, some of this feud worked, some of it didn’t: Murray’s skepticism at doing a “political” song, and the ensuing pro/anti-AIDS argument might have been the best Murray bit of the season; however, the boys’ sitcom-y tricks—stealing glasses, gluing on fake beards—felt a little hoary, even if they were tongue-in-cheek. (It did result in some excellent creepster Mel moments though.) Thankfully, what originally seemed like a huge cop-out of an ending—Brahbrah thought they were gay, oh the hilarious misunderstandings!—took a funny little turn that found Jemaine, once again, shunted aside in favor of Bret, “if he’s straight.” Oh, and the revelation that Jemaine’s actually been pronouncing her name incorrectly the whole time. Seriously, who’s named “Barbra?”
And then there’s “Love Is A Weapon Of Choice,” the second musical number of the night, which is set off after the boys’ attempts to out-melisma each other in the studio dissolves into a “duel.” Man, I really wanted to like this number, and I have to say that the visual element of it was pretty spot-on and delightful (see: Wiig flowing up and down a candlelit staircase, backlit doves, ninjas, etc). But—and I can’t believe I’m saying this about a joke band—the Conchords’ vocals really killed this one for me. Not that I expected Meatloaf-like vocal prowess from them, but Jemaine’s flat growling and Bret’s falsetto were distracting and kind of annoying, and the whole thing was mixed in such a way that they just kind of disappeared into the song. I know no one listens to the Conchords for their singing chops, but this number amped up the winking attitude the guys usually give their performances just a little too high, to the point where it was more muggy clowning than inspired parody.
But one failed song and a couple less-than-transcendent gags do not a bad episode make, and “Same Girl” had more than enough to otherwise endear it. A lot of that came from Wiig, who thankfully set aside the hyperactive crazy lady shtick she’s been milking all too frequently lately on SNL. Though she was mostly playing straight man, she got in some great under-the-radar laughs—particularly the descriptions of her pictures of Charlie the dog: his cheerleading skills, his pumpkin costume for a “gourd party,” his enemy “Senor.” It seems that this was a one-time-only guest shot, despite the door left open on Bret and Brahbrah’s budding relationship, but I would be happy to have Wiig return, a la Sally, to stir up another duel or two between the boys. If nothing, we might get a better song out of it.
• In all seriousness, a dog having a seizure is probably one of the saddest things you’ll ever witness. I think that’s why I don’t like fireworks: Fireworks = my puppy having seizures = sorrow.
• Glad to see Jemaine adheres to the finer points of dueling etiquette: glove slap!
• Since when are the Conchords (the version in the show) able to afford studio time? And where was that piano player hiding in there?
• “I cant tell you how many times I’ve laid in bed wondering what a child between you and Jemaine would look like, but it looks something like this.”
• I suspect I’m in the minority with my Wiig love here, based on some of the comments I’ve seen ’round A.V. Club way. I guess I can see how she might be grating, but I think she’s pretty much the only funny thing left on SNL these days. Thoughts?
• We're more than halfway through the season already! When did that happen?
• Sorry for the late posting. Due to Tivo malfunction (noooooooooooo!!) I wasn’t able to watch this episode until this morning.